Jon Simms and I first met 12 years ago in Golden B.C., where we became close friends and regular skiing and climbing partners. Together we developed our passions for the mountains by sessioning our incredible backyard of the Rockies, Purcells and Selkirks where the shredding and climbing are seemingly unlimited. This summer, the "Simmulator" completed his decade long quest to become an internationally certified mountain guide and a member of the UIAGM - no small feat. Although his guiding skills have been developing for years, he's not your average guide.
When you know how to move through the mountains like Mr.Simms, turns like this come easily.: Photo: Jon Walsh
Jon's winters are mixed with Heli-skiing out of Tyax lodge and running his own business, WASASkiing.com. He has developed a BC wide steep camp circuit for his clients. The WASA courses have been developed for people who are looking to better their mountain skills. A lot of random questions about Simms from our local mountain community seem to get directed to me, so here's a little Q and A with the man himself:
Q: Why do you base yourself in Golden B.C.?
As a full time mountain athlete, Golden provides me with access to all the goods. I've found this area of BC to have the least amount of down time when it comes to mountain sessioning. I've lived in Golden since 2002. Ironically, I chose the location of where i was to live by a map. I wanted to live in a town where I could continue to pursue my ski passions as well as having an opportunity to easily access some of the world's finest ice/mix climbing, in the Canadian Rockies. Also, the town of Golden has a lot of soulful people. It's not about the hype. People here are real shredders and are always out doing things in the mountains.
A quick flight from Jonny's hometown put him on the business end of this pow line at Icefall Lodge.: Photo: Jon Walsh
Q: How many years have you been skiing?
Q: How many years have you been guiding? 9 years. Although a lot of the earlier years of my guiding career it was under supervision. It is quite a thorough process to become a full guide and not have supervision. I decided I wanted to become a guide in my later teens. At first, I just wanted to heli ski. Now, body propelled guiding is something I real am focusing on.
Q: Why do you work at Tyax?
Tyax has an amazing ski tenure. It is bigger then Switzerland. We work in all snowpacks. Everything from a coastal snowpack to continental snowpack. Tracking snow instabilities in all sides of the tenure can be quite challenging. So, If your not on your A game, you can get bit in the ass easily. I feel very lucky to work in a ski tenure where we'll ski massive coastal glaciers, have lunch on the ocean, pick some oysters, Go for a hot spring and then ski big steep glaciers on the way home. What an incredible part of the world we live in.
"What an incredible part of the world we live in." Jonny Simms: Photo: Randy Lynx
Q: What are your favourite ski areas?
I enjoy skiing Whistler/Blackcomb when it isn't busy. In bounds, Spanky's ridge in particular. Out of bounds, the Spearhead Glacier. I also love to shred Delirium Dive at Sun Shine Village in March/April. In my opinion, this could possibly be the best lift accessed Canadian ski run in the right snow conditions.
Q: What's in your ski quiver and why?
191 cm Goliath Movement skis for wide open alpine lines. This is my ski for the steep camps we offer at Tyax. It is also my ski when charging with the bros at the hill on a powder day. This ski is very stable at high speed.
186 cm Bodacious Blizzard. Another ski for the alpine. But with the slightly shorter length, it works well in the trees.
182 cm Stoke Dynafit. This is my ski mountaineering ski. When I carry a full ski mountaineering rig (tools, crampons, screws, etc.), I need a lightish ski to keep the weight of the pack down. It is lightweight but can also somewhat perform. I also use this ski when I am out guiding my steep camps.
183 cm 3zero Faction. This is my favourite all around mechanized ski. It works well in the tight couloir's at Kicking Horse. As well as my everyday heli guiding ski.
Q: How do you feel about mechanized assisted big lines?
I have a lot respect for the bigger mountains and the influence weather can have on snow conditions. I am true believer in climbing a line before I ski it. This method provides you with intimate info on the ski descent. It is also a technique to stay alive out there and not get surprised by a sudden change in snow condition, especially in the Rockies. When I'm managing the ascent part, I always look at it from the eyes of an alpine climber.
I can understand the logic out there in the ski movie world, especially in AK in a coastal snowpack where the snowpack is deep and there is an unlikelyhood of hitting blue ice on the descent. This, I believe, is how Doug Coombs died in La Grave, France.
Q: What do you see in the future of steep ski mountaineering?
Well JW, in Canada, I think you and Chris Brazeau have already set that bar with the ski descent of Popes/Narao, in the Lake Louise group, five years ago now?!?. [I have respect for]lines that require a little more than just ski skills, like short sections of waterfall ice that need to be pitched out climbing on the ascent, and then rappelled, or if really bold, aired on the descent. Skiers will have to have a few more tricks in their repertoire to fulfill these objectives. There are a whole world of these sorts of ski descents out there, especially in the Rockies.
The Europeans have set another bar. Ascending the mountain up one aspect, mixed climbing with a light weight ski set up. Using the Dynafit TLT 5 boots that take a crampon, yet carrying ski equipment for the descent. The skis being as short as 155 cm for a grown male. Anything longer only hinder the already challenging ascent. The ski descent is usually a substantial line off another aspect of the mountain. The Europeans are bringing steep skiing and alpine climbing together even more so.
Q: Which skiers inspire you the most?
At beginning it was Scott Schmidt in the film the Blizzard of Ahhhs. He had a much more humble approach than Glen Plake had in the movie. Although Glen Plake still rules. I'm glad we didn't lose such a loved ski icon in the recent avalanche on Manaslu.
On a more local level, all the amazing shred mountaineers in the Golden/Revelstoke area. This doesn't apply just to skiers but the splitboard mountaineering scene as well. I believe this ski/snowboard crew is the hub of Canadian ski mountaineering. It would be a historical project if someone was to make a movie documentary on this scene.
Q: Any tips for staying alive?
Be humble. Research your objective. Know conditions. Understand objective hazard. Take a course by certified ACMG Guide.
Mr. Simms makes the call in more critical terrain than the average guided experience provides.: Photo: Randy Lynx
Q: Biggest pet peeves?
People with Ego. Also, that my close friends don't play nearly enough music with me.
Q: Best skiing experience?
The annual hut trips my friends and I do for New Years. Sorcerer Lodge or WhiteCap. It's always on!
Q: Worst skiing experience?
Committing arrivals in the helicopter when it's really white. This is one of the bigger hazards of the job as a heli ski guide.
Q: Strangest place you've woken up?
Q: What's your dream trip?
Guiding and sessioning in Chamonix, France again.
Q: What are your favourite activities when you're not skiing?
I love to surf in warm water. Big waves with deep take offs. if you like getting thrown, you'll like surfing.
I try and play a lot of guitar. Jamming is an important artistic channel in my life. It's an area of my life where it's ok to make mistakes without big consequences.
Q: What are you ambitions and what does the future hold for you?
Continue to pursue my mountain passions, build up my business, live simply and have time for music and my friends.
Q: What is the address of your website?
A lot of people can say they had the best day of their lives with this man right here.: Photo: Randy Lynx